Job as a distribution manager

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Paul Baker works as a distribution manager for large supermarket chain. He is in charge of fifteen lorry drivers and plays a key operational role in the distribution process. Thousands of cases of stock are delivered to shops every day and Paul has to make sure they arrive safely and on time.

What do you do?

I plan each outward operation a day in advance and ensure that it runs smoothly. This involves making sure there are enough drivers to cover all the outgoing deliveries. Another part of my role is the management of a small administration department.

How many deliveries do you handle in a day?

There are eighty deliveries a day, so part of my job is to make sure that enough trucks get back to the depot on time to load up for the next delivery slot.

What is a typical day as a distribution manager like?

I usually arrive 20 minutes early for the handover from the previous shift. I spend some time gathering and analysing statistics on my computer. I also have two meetings, one at the start to give our operation status and one at the end to review the shift. I am also out in the yard a lot during the day.

How do you communicate with drivers on the road?

We have computers which are connected to all the lorries via satellite and I use these to send text messages.

What unexpected things can happen?

Hopefully nothing too series! I always have a contingency plan in case a truck breaks down. However, some things I just can't prepare for – once there was a freak downpour and the warehouse got flooded. Nothing could leave the distribution centre until we had scooped all the water out!

How did you get into distribution?

I got involved by chance. I started working part time in a Tesco store when I was still at college. I then worked as an administration clerk and customer services clerk within distribution, before moving into transport as a scheduler. I was entered onto a Management Development Programme and this led to my current role.

Have you had training to become a distribution manager?

A lot of my training has been in people management. The courses I've been on involve a lot of role-playing. The situations were quite realistic and I found this really helpful in boosting my confidence.

Do you work shifts?

Yes. I work from 6.00 am to 2.00 pm, or 2.00 pm to 10.00 pm, alternating on a weekly basis. It can be quite demanding but the holiday allowance is very good and makes up for having to work unsociable hours.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy interacting with the drivers. They can be quite challenging at times, but the banter is always good fun and light-hearted!

Is there anything you don't enjoy?

It can be a bit stressful if a driver is involved in a road accident. Obviously the priority is making sure that no-one is injured.

What are your future plans?

In the long term, I would like to become a transport manager. I'd also love to have the opportunity to work abroad with Tesco.

What advice would you give to a budding distribution manager?

You have to be calm and logical because there is a lot of planning. Mostly, though, this job is about people and you have to be confident and fair.

Paul's route to becoming a distribution manager

  • GNVQ Leisure and Tourism.
  • Joined major supermarket.
  • Various roles in distribution.
  • Completed internal Management Development Programme.

Paul's tips

  • A level-headed approach will help you to stay calm under pressure.
  • Read the industry press to learn more about retail, distribution and transport.
  • It helps to have a general interest in road transport.

Distribution manager related jobs

  • Freight forwarder
  • Port operative
  • Retail manager
  • Road transport manager
  • Transport planner
  • Transport scheduler
  • Warehouse worker/manager

Salary of a distribution manager

  • Salaries start at around £15,000 a year.
  • A senior logistics/distribution manager can earn in excess of £60,000 a year.
  • Some employers offer benefits such as performance-related pay or a company car.

Distribution manager

  • Many people start working at retail and distribution firms in a junior post and work their way up.
  • Apprenticeships may be available, leading to NVQs/SVQs in Distribution, Warehousing and Storage Operations Levels 2 and 3, or Logistics and Transport Levels 2 and 3.
  • Alternatively, applicants could study one of the following courses:
  • Edexcel BTEC First Diploma Level 2, BTEC National Award Level 3 and BTEC National Certificate in Logistics Level 3.
  • Logistics, supply chain and transport management subjects can be studied at foundation degree, undergraduate and postgraduate level.
  • Certificate and diploma courses from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK).

Modified: 16 June 2013

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